Bar Council of India Mandates New Criminal Laws In Education Curricula for 2024–25

Bar Council of India Mandates New Criminal Laws In Education Curricula for 2024–25

In accordance with a circular released by the Bar Council of India (BCI), legal education institutions will begin teaching the three new enactments, Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam of 2023, in the academic year 2024–2025.

Manasi KambleUpdated: Monday, May 27, 2024, 05:05 PM IST
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The Bar Council of India (BCI) has issued a circular instructing legal education institutions nationwide to promptly implement several directives. This includes the inclusion of three new enactments - Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam of 2023—into university and legal education institution curricula, starting from the academic year 2024–2025.

About The Three New Laws

In India, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is the main law regarding criminal offenses, covering those affecting property, the human body, public order, defamation, public health, and offenses against the state. The IPC has been amended multiple times over the years to add new offenses, modify punishments, and update existing offenses. Additionally, various Law Commission reports have recommended amendments to the IPC on topics such as food adulteration, offenses against women, and the death penalty. To reform India's criminal justice system, the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill 2023 was proposed, which consists of 358 sections, while the IPC consists of 511 sections.

Key Points

The new law prioritizes offenses against women, the state, murder, and children. It also standardizes the use of the term "child" and introduces "community service" as a punishment for certain offenses.

In Section 2 of the BNS 2023, definitions of 'child' and 'transgender' are provided. Additionally, the definition of 'document' now includes 'Electronic and digital records' to highlight their significance in modern contexts. The definition of 'movable property' has also been updated to include "property of every description, except land and things attached to the earth or permanently fastened to anything which is attached to the earth."

Section 48 of the BNS Act of 2023 introduces a new rule called "Abetment outside India for offense in India." This means that any individual who plans to commit an offense in India while being in another country can be held accountable under this law.

Section 69 of the new law illustrated a new offense: 'sexual'intercourse by employing deceitful means, etc.’ It states that any individual by false promise of marriage, employment, or promotion engages in sexual intercourse should be punished with imprisonment for a term extending to 10 years and should be liable to fine.

The introduction of the new BNS law eliminated the age-based distinction for punishment in gang rape cases of a minor girl. It mandates life imprisonment of the death penalty for the crime of gang rape of a woman below 18 years of age, Section 70(2).

The new law also addresses the serious issue of mob violence, murder, or grievous hurt by five or more than five people on the specified ground, under Section 103. The grounds may include caste, community, place of birth, sex, race, personal belief, language, or any other.

The BNS, 2023, has modified the punishment for causing death by negligence from 2 years to 5 five years imprisonment under Section 106 (i). Moreover, it also highlighted that if such an act is done by a registered medical practitioner he/she should be punished with imprisonment for a term extending to 2 years and a fine.

Also, a new provision to address the cases of hit and run is introduced under Section 106(ii) of BNS 2023. It states that “Whoever causes the death of any person by rash and negligent driving of vehicle not amounting to culpable homicide, and escapes without reporting it to a police officer or a Magistrate soon after the incident, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description of a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine”.

Section 111 of the BNS, 2023, introduced deterrent punishments for organized crime such as land grabbing, kidnapping, contract killing, cybercrime, extortion, trafficking of persons or goods or weapons or drugs, and financial scams. It states that anyone who attempts or commits an organized crime will be punished with life imprisonment or death and a Rs. 10 Lakhs fine in case the offence results in the death of any individual and for others the punishment will be less than 5 years extending to life imprisonment and a fine of at least 5 lakh rupees.

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita of 2023, also introduced deterrent punishments for committing any terrorist act, any act performed with “an intent to threaten or likely to threaten the unity, integrity, sovereignty, security, or economic security of India or with the intent to strike terror or likely to strike terror in the people or any section of the people in India or in any foreign country”.

As per Section 113 of the law, anyone who commits such an offence will be punished with imprisonment for less than 5 years but may extend to life imprisonment and a fine. In case such an offence resulted in the death of any person then the offender is punished with death or life imprisonment and a fine.

Another important provision (Section 114), importation of a girl or boy from a foreign country, is introduced where any girl (under 20 years of age) and boy (under 18 years of age) is imported into India from any foreign country and are forced to illicit intercourse with another person will be punished with 10 years of imprisonment and a fine.

Along with this, the BNS of 2023 eliminated the Section related to Sedition (specifically Section 124A of the IPC) upholding the constitutional right of freedom of speech and expression. It introduced a new provision, Section 152 where any person who conducted an act endangering the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India will be punished with life imprisonment or imprisonment extending to 7 years and a fine.

Section 304 of the BNS 2023, has introduced a new offence of ‘Snatching’ which states that “theft is snatching if, in order to commit theft, the offender suddenly or quickly or forcibly seizes or secures or grabs or takes away from any person or from his possession any movable property”. As per this Section, anyone who commits snatching should be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years and a fine.

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, created new offenses not found in the Indian Penal Code. The main goal of this law is to "consolidate and amend the provisions relating to offences and for matters therewith or incidental thereto." The law also mentions a number of other notable additions that lead to an organized structure that addresses challenges and reflects a commitment to fairness and clarity.

The Minister of Home Affairs, Amit Shah, introduced the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill in the Lok Sabha on August 11, 2023. However, the BNS Bill was withdrawn on December 12, 2023, and the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita Bill, 2023 was introduced in the Lok Sabha. On December 20 and 21, the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita Bill, 2023, was passed in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, respectively. Furthermore, the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita Bill, 2023, received the assent of India’s President Droupadi Murmu on December 25, 2023.

What Does The Circular State?

A circular dated May 20, 2024, and signed by BCI Secretary Srimanto Sen, was addressed to university vice-chancellors, registrars, as well as principals, deans, and directors of legal institutions. The circular stated, "In line with the evolving legal landscape of the nation, it has been decided to include three new enactments - Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023, and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam, 2023 - into the curriculum of Universities and Centers of Legal Education, starting from the academic year 2024-2025."

In order to align with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's directives and the collective interests of the judiciary and government, a circular has emphasized the need for a "transformative vision" for legal education. The circular highlights the integration of new subjects into legal curricula, stating, "The Prime Minister has emphasized the need for legal education to adapt to changing times and technologies, with a focus on understanding the latest trends in crimes, investigation, and evidence."

The Prime Minister also emphasized the need to enhance exchange programs between law universities from various countries to offer young legal professionals more international exposure. In light of these points, the Bar Council of India is issuing this circular to all Centers of Legal Education for immediate implementation.

Legal education institutions are required to include subjects such as blockchain, electronic discovery, cyber-security, robotics, artificial intelligence, and bio-ethics in their curricula. The initiative aims to ensure graduates have the skills to address current legal challenges. Additionally, the importance of understanding constitutional values, integrating socio-economic and cultural contexts, promoting interdisciplinary thinking, and fostering bilingual education is emphasized. Computer education is already included, and there is an interest in making mediation a compulsory subject.

The circular outlines guidelines that prohibit the approval of law courses through online or correspondence modes. It emphasizes the conduct of degree courses through regular, in-person sessions within stipulated timeframes and working hours. Additionally, the circular addresses the process for equating foreign LLB degrees obtained by Indian students. It emphasizes the need for periodic review and compliance with sanctioned seat strengths across legal education institutions.

The circular states, “All Centers of Legal Education under the BCI's purview are required to adhere to Bar Council of India Legal Education Reforms, Mandatory Guidelines, Norms & Rules of Legal Education in the design and execution of Legal Education/Law Degree programs. Non-compliance shall result in necessary action. This circular is effective immediately.”

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